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BOOK REVIEW : The Tree with a Thousand Apples

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TITLE: The Tree with a Thousand Apples
AUTHOR: Sanchit Gupta
PUBLISHER: Niyogi Books
GENRE: Fiction

THE BOOK

BLURB

‘If a criminal was once a saint and a saint was once a criminal, then who is a criminal and who is a saint?’

Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.

While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will. Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?

The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylised layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling make for a powerful, gripping read.

MY TAKE

WOWs !!

STORY-LINE:- Gripping & insightful!

The story takes one on a journey of life in the valley albeit a short one yet enough to make one ponder. Within the 279 pages one comes across the feeling of brotherhood shared by the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims, the sudden souring of relationships and the communal flare-ups, the birth of terror and terrorists, the loss of innocence ……. But what stays with the reader at the end of the read is the strong bond of camaraderie shared by the protagonists i.e. the three childhood friends Bilal, Saifeena Malik and Deewan Bhat.

The sufferings, the embitterment as well as the good times are portrayed beautifully in the book. Finally on closing it one can’t help but ask a few questions such as –

“Have we as a Nation failed in integrating the youth of the valley into the mainstream?”

“Where did we go wrong?”

“Why is there so much hatred among people of different communities?”

“Who or what is the root cause for the crisis that saw Hindu Pandits leave their homeland and why are we still not able to instill a sense of security in them to return to their homes?”

The book reveals some distasteful and disturbing facts; things one wishes are not true.

CHARACTERIZATION :- Perfect. The characters are well fleshed out with all their imperfections. One can’t help but empathize with Bilal and Safeena.

LANGUAGE :- Simple, crisp and lucid, one that has the power to take the reader on a smooth and engaging journey.

PACE & STYLE :- The pace is even and perfect while the style of narration leaves no room for complaint.

OOPs!!

I’m confused. Know why? Somehow I can’t understand how one General can continue to hold command/ call the shots in one place/ command area continuously for more than 20 years like General Choudhary.

VERDICT

An engaging read, one that is not only interesting but insightful too. I’ll give the book a 4 on a scale of 5.


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MEET THE AUTHOR

SANCHIT GUPTA

Started off as a part-time copywriter and then went on to co-found his own theatre group this young man worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer–fiction for a leading television network too.

Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta’s short stories have been published in several publications and lit festivals, viz Muse India, Indian Ruminations, Contemporary Literary Review India and Tata Lit Live to name a few. He has worked with All India Radio as a talk show host and regularly features in poetry recitals at Prithvi Café, Mumbai. ‘The Tree with a Thousand Apples’ is his debut novel, the screenplay based on which has been long-listed in Sundance screenwriters’ International lab- US.

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